Tried and tested

Tried and tested

Like most great things, the Truck Test programme sprung from humble beginnings – but it has grown to an annual extravaganza that’s eagerly scrutinised by so many in our industry. However, this test wouldn’t have been possible without its partners …

Our Truck Test concept was born when the late Fritz Hellberg, founder of Hellberg Transport Management (HTM) and convenor of the Truck Test programme, approached FOCUS editor Charleen Clarke at the RFA Conference in Gaborone in 2011.

Poetically, after nine months of planning, our “baby was born” when Truck Test 2012 took to the streets. “We took 18 extra-heavies from Johannesburg to Durban and then back again,” relates Clarke. “The purpose of the exercise was to establish real-world operating conditions. It wasn’t a competition, but rather an accurate test of actual costs and performance data – in the real world.”

In 2013, we did it again as fourteen 4×2 freight carriers, with a legal carrying capacity of seven tonnes and over, were scrutinised – this time between Umfula One-Stop on the R512 near Hartbeespoort Dam (better known during the test as Engen Hartbeespoort) and Swartruggens (the town after Rustenburg on the N4). The test also included a challenging course around Gerotek Testing Facility’s Concrete Ride and Handling Track – based outside Pretoria.

Both tests were a huge success … and that was all thanks to Fritz. “He took our little ‘baby’ under his wing, nurturing it until it grew into a handsome adult,” wrote Clarke in her tribute to this great man. But his brainchild, HTM’s transport planning software, TransSolve, has also played an integral part – and will continue to do so – in the Truck Test events.

The vehicle simulation software was originally developed as a marketing tool for commercial vehicle manufacturers and their various dealer networks. It can accurately predict total cost of ownership for vehicles over varying terrains and under different loading conditions – a handy system for when you want to show your potential customers what a vehicle can do …

The modules consist of load distribution, routing, vehicle performance, finance, maintenance, costing, as well as a static specification comparison section – all combined in a user-friendly interface. In the Truck Tests all the vehicles were “put through their paces” with TransSolve, before the runs began, to see whether the vehicles performed as well in practice as in theory.

The results delivered some very interesting findings … When the final results for Truck Test 2012 were tallied, the overall difference between the simulated and actual results was four percent. “This means that, as TransSolve predictions were very meaningful in a set route like Truck Test 2012, such predictions could be made very accurately for any route in South Africa,” said Fritz after the event.

And this rang true in Truck Test 2013, as the average speed predicted was 2,4 percent less than the actual speed achieved and average TransSolve fuel consumption was 5,2 percent higher than actual consumption – marginal discrepancies if you consider the wide spectrum of operating conditions encountered in the test.

“It is interesting to note that the reason for the difference between the real and the TransSolve results was generally the achievement of the more professional drivers who were able to ‘beat the computer’ in both average speed and average fuel consumption,” Fritz reported after the 2013 instalment.

Now Truck Test 2014 is around the corner, set to take place next month, and we look forward to what HTM has in store … The results will be presented in a far more comprehensive and informative way than ever before.

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Key players in the FOCUS editor’s quest to go trucking! From left: Janke van Jaarsveld (IDes Driving Academy), Alexander Taftman (Scania), Charleen Clarke (FOCUS), John Nelson (Scania) and Shane September (Scania).
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